Injured man loses No Fault PIP case against Auto Club because he didn't give written notice within one year
Alan Jesperson's motorcycle was rear-ended by a pizza deliveryman at a Macomb County intersection. He jumped from the bike as it was struck but claimed that he injured his back in the process. More than a year after the collision, he sought PIP benefits from the vehicle insurer and was paid approximately $21,000.00. When he sued the owner alleging serious impairment, however, the Auto Club, the owner's insurer, apparently noticed that Jesperson had not given it written notice of the injury within one year.
The "third-party" claim against the at-fault driver and owner went to trial where the jury entered a verdict of no cause of action. AAA then sought summary disposition of the PIP action that Jesperson had filed. Jesperson responded that AAA's payment of his bills after the one-year deadline had "revived" his claim and that in any event AAA had waived the statute of limitations defense by failing to affirmatively allege it in the pleadings. The trial judge and Court of Appeals rejected Jesperson's arguments, even though the no fault statute expressly states that an action "may not be commenced later than one year after the date of the accident...unless the insurer has previously made a payment of [PIP benefits]..." The judges added a qualifiying interpretation that the latter payment must occur within one year for the injury victim's claim to be preserved.
The opinion of the Court of Appeals was written by very conservative Republican Judge Mark Boonstra who normally argues that statutes "must be interpreted as written." Judge Servitto dissented, noting that the ruling violates both the language and standard interpretation of statute, but also the Supreme Court precedent governing filing of Affirmative Defenses.
Two axioms come to mind:
"Pigs get fat; hogs get slaughtered;" and "hard cases make bad law."